McFeatters: Lawmakers bloviate, taxpayers fret
Congress isn't acting like institution thatfeels for constituents
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Congress hates us.
There's no other conclusion to reach. We are SO ready for some holiday spirit, exhausted by politics and gridlock and deficits and tax debates.
And what do we get as we're trying to think about presents and trees and pageants and carols and food and family reunions? The fiscal cliff.
Not a day goes by that we don't hear that the average middle-class family (which means most of us) could face higher taxes of $4,000 next year because Republicans and Democrats in Congress can't get their acts together. For most of us, the idea of paying $4,000 more in taxes is dumbfounding.
We're told 18 percent of people approve of the job Congress is doing. Just as we did last August when that figure was 10 percent, we ask: Who are those people? How can they possibly think Congress is doing a good job?
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney didn't have a beer summit at the White House since Romney doesn't drink. But they did break bread privately for the first time ever. However, they didn't come out to the Rose Garden afterward to present us with a bipartisan Game Plan for America after each spent a billion dollars trying to pulverize the other. The meeting seems to have been an anomaly and doesn't look to be a regular thing.
So we're like the audience at a Ping-Pong game. House Speaker John Boehner says something; the White House responds. Vice versa. And the media ponders: Are they curt? Conciliatory? Did Boehner smile? Cry? Smirk? Is Obama listening? Are Democrats deserting him? Rallying round him?
And once again, it all seems to be about tax cuts for the rich. The really, really rich would have to pay the rates they paid during the Clinton administration, when millions of jobs were created, a surplus seemed in sight and most people were not worried about their next meal.
To make us feel better, economists are saying that this isn't really a cliff (the $4,000 wouldn't be due Jan. 1) but more of a "slope." Since most political slopes are usually slippery, that doesn't make me feel better.
Republicans: Tax increases on anybody will foil job growth even though the evidence from the recent past doesn't bear that out at all.
Democrats: Any talk of raising the age for Social Security benefits or means-testing it amounts to treason against the middle class.
It's enough to make us scream: "Hey Congress, there wouldn't be a fiscal cliff crisis if you hadn't created it."
All they have to do is create jobs by passing one of the massive put-America-back-to-work bills Congress has been ignoring for two years.
All they have to do is stop insisting that Medicaid and Social Security have to be cut. (Social Security is self-funding and is not part of the current crisis; Medicaid is for the seriously poor.)
All they have to do is make certain the rich pay their fair share. (Is it fair that Romney paid only 13 or 14 percent on millions of dollars, way less than most Americans?)
All they have to do is extend the current tax rates for Americans earning less than $250,000.
It's remarkable that some politicians go on TV to say with great firmness that the fiscal cliff will be averted by an eleventh-hour deal although the can actually will be kicked down the road.
At the same time, other politicians go on TV to announce with definite certitude that we are all going to plunge right over that cliff. The extension of unemployment benefits will expire. FICA taxes will rise. Most families will have to pay the alternative minimum tax. Employers will stop hiring. We'll go back into recession.
And then as they go off the air they all wish each other a happy holiday.
Congress doesn't want us to have a happy holiday. Congress wants us all to be miserable. Congress hates us.
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. Email: email@example.com.